A Day in the Life: The boss who balances life with healthcare and sheep

Bob Andrews, chief executive office of healthcare organisation Benenden Health, which is based in York

Bob Andews, CEO of Benenden Health in York.
Bob Andews, CEO of Benenden Health in York.

I’ve spent nearly two years at Benenden Health in York, having made the leap from senior positions in the financial services sector, ranging from core banking and personal lending to insurance and mortgages.

After a period as CEO for a large mortgage company based near London, I joined Benenden Health in 2017. It is a truly amazing not-for-profit healthcare business with more than 810,000 members across the UK who benefit from a wide hospital network including our own Benenden Hospital in Kent, a 24/7 mental health helpline, 24/7 GP access and diagnostic testing. Our product is easily defined as the affordable alternative to health insurance and complements the great work of the NHS.

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Having been brought up in Ilkley, West Yorkshire, I now live in Skipton with my wife, three children and a fair menagerie of animals. It is so valuable to be living and working in a Yorkshire-based head office after spending many years working in London, New Zealand and Germany.

My first job of the day is to check on my sheep. I have a flock of 10 ewes and 18 lambs – the lambs have recently been weaned so it’s been a bit noisy at the moment. After a quick cup of tea, I then set off for work at 6.30am for my commute to York with my car-share buddy, our chief operating officer, Andrew Barker. My sheep are a reminder that there is always more to life than just work, however much you might enjoy it.

Once I have arrived at the Benenden Health office and settled in, my days are generally filled with meetings and engagement sessions. The first port of call for the day, though, is to spend time talking with the team to find out how they are doing and what’s happening in the business. This fits in nicely with listening to calls from our members and hearing their feedback so I can keep close to the real Benenden Health member experience.

I also have communication sessions and skip levels to hear from our non-managerial employees. Our skip level meetings consist of honest conversation around the campaigns we are working on and the feedback we are receiving from our members. As a number of our non-managerial employees are those who speak directly to our members, the value in their opinion on where and what to focus on next is unparallelled.

There are always reports to read and papers to write for our board. Some of the most interesting parts of my day are reading the plans and research from our strategic functions such as brand strategy and marketing on important issues such as managing the wellbeing needs of a multigenerational workforce and supporting employees with family and caring commitments.

We are working on some incredibly exciting projects at Benenden Health, all of which make me proud of who we are and what we stand for – in particular, the brand proposition work that is being done to build on our TV campaigns, supported with product development that is designed to shorten the response time between member and medical professional. It is one of the favourite parts of my jobs, in fact, telling people about our business and what we have to offer.

It gives me great excitement and expectation for the long-term success of this already 115-year-old mutual as we transform to fit with healthcare demands and expectations of the future encompassing tech, operations and customer experience.

The work we are doing is no doubt more important than ever. We are living in strange and changing times where the broader healthcare sector is facing challenges borne of difficulties and funding shortages in the NHS, coupled with conflicting priorities in parts of the health service that would be better working together.

We then have the Brexit uncertainty and rising costs of living. On the one hand some of these challenges create opportunity for a low-cost healthcare proposition like ours, but this can be offset by the rising demand for service.

After witnessing all the amazing work done by my Benenden Health team, there’s no doubt that getting home at night to my family is still the favourite part of my day.

I have spent many years working away from home and I am lucky that I am able to get home most evenings, working in York. I live in the most beautiful of counties and it’s always great to spend family time at the end of the day… and then of course, feeding the sheep.